Tag Archives: holidays

Lighter Artichoke Dip- 1,000 calories and 100 grams of fat lighter! But still delicious!

I adore bubbly, gooey delicious artichoke dip slathered on French bread.

It’s my weakness at any party. And  I make an incredible version but it is so unhealthy- it contains 1 cup of mayonnaise and 3 cups of cheese.

artichoke dip up close

I knew my recipe was unhealthy but had no idea how bad it was until recently when I wrote a food column about it ran the ingredients through a database and my jaw dropped: it contains 2,092 calories and 203 grams of fat.

Ouch. I calculated for the entire dish instead of per serving because you never know how much people will eat.

I’m determined not to gain weight this holiday season and that means that dip is out. I am at an age where weight doesn’t come off like it used to so I am going to be more careful which means revamping some of my favorite recipes.

So I lightened up the dip and the results were AMAZING. AMAZING. I am so proud of it. I can’t believe it saves that many calories and that much fat and still tastes this fantastic. Look how gooey it still is

artichoke cheese

.   Just by switching from artichokes packed in oil to canned ones packed in water, I saved 36 grams of fat. Then, I used light mayonnaise which slashed 39 grams of fat and 460 calories. I cut out 1 ¼ cups of cheese, too. Whenever you remove fat, you have to add extra flavor so I sprinkled it with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and garlic salt. Also, I used Parmesan because that’s a flavorful cheese.  The new dip has 1,130 calories for the entire dish which is made in a pie pan and 84 grams of fat (that’s 119 grams less of fat).

 

 

I hope you enjoy it.

Light Artichoke Dip

1 (14.5-ounce) can artichoke hearts in water, thoroughly drained and patted dry

2/3 cup Duke’s light mayonnaise (or your favorite brand)

1 cup part skim mozzarella cheese

¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

½ heaping teaspoon Italian seasoning

¼ teaspoon garlic salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together the first five ingredients until combined. Place in a shallow pie pan. Top with Italian seasoning and garlic salt. Bake for 18-22 minutes. Serve warm with French bread or crackers.

artichoke dip on crackers

 

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Easy Entertaining Ideas this holiday season

I love entertaining. I don’t like stress.

So when I throw a soiree, I try supplement with what I call “cheater” products.

I am talking about store bought items or super easy recipes. I always have a couple of dishes that are the star of the meal (homemade and decadent), but I also serve five or six items that take no time at all.

For example, I always serve good quality olive oil and vinegar as a dipping sauce with French bread. That takes one minute to assemble, but is another offering on the table.

What impresses people at a party is delicious food, but also variety. Variety is key.  As a host when you offer an array of dips, you ensure everyone will find something they love.

One thing about store bought food is I don’t present it as store bought (of course, I am honest when people ask). But if you open a veggie tray and leave in the container, it’s not as enticing as if you put the vegetables on a platter, place the Ranch dip in a little bowl, and then buy a horseradish dip, maybe some hummus, or even split the Ranch dip in half and add 1 teaspoon of dried dill to the second batch to make it different.

Again, it’s all about variety (and taste and presentation).

Another perk to not serving something in its original container is you can keep the leftovers. If you serve mustard in its jar, then every time someone dips into it they are introducing new bacteria to the mustard which will make leftovers spoil faster if you try to keep them. Also, leaving a dip on the counter for the duration of the party and then refrigerating it for later is not the most sanitary idea.

I only put out half of what I have and then keep the rest in the refrigerator as needed.

I also like to use smaller dishes for serving which enables me to fit more on the table. A Dollar Tree or thrift store is a great place to find inexpensive dishes for a holiday party.

I have some “staples” in terms of entertaining, but I am always trying new products, too. So if you are looking from some excellent products that will impress your guests and keep the stress off you, then here are a few of my recommendations:

Wind & Willow is a company based in Mt. Vernon that sells in 6,000 retail locations nationwide. The products are awesome. The company makes easy dips, cheeseballs, dessert balls, soup mixes etc. The Roasted Red Pepper Dip is one of my absolute favorites.  I serve it with vegetables and crackers. If you are watching your carbs, the dip has less than 1 carb (even after it is assembled). All you have to do is mix it with mayonnaise and sour cream and chill it for a few hours before serving. I make it a day in advance because I think it brings out the flavors and is one less thing I have to do on party day. Another wonderful product from this company is the Tiramisu dessert ball. You can visit www.windandwillow.com/ to see where the products are sold near you.

 

Harry & David Charred Pineapple Relish is incredible mixed with a log of chevre. I mix one-third of the jar with a 4 ounce log of chevre and serve with tortilla chips. People always ask for this recipe. The goat cheese just gives it this zing. The relish is slightly spicy.  Another excellent product from Harry & David is the Onion and Pepper Relish, which is served over a block of cream cheese. Find the closest outlet to you or order online: www.harryanddavid.com

 

I discovered Robert Rothschild Raspberry Honey Mustard about 10 years ago and it remains my favorite honey mustard.

Rothschild mustard credit Robert Rothschild company

 

The mustard is on the pricey side ($6-$8), but I serve it with a $1 bag of pretzels, so it’s not too expensive overall. If you have leftovers of the mustard, spread it on a chicken sandwich with arugula and sharp cheddar cheese (you can also made mini sliders for your party using that same recipe). Another idea for leftovers is to use it as a salad dressing on a salad of spinach, chicken, goat cheese, candied pecans, and strawberries and raspberries. It’s fantastic.

This Christmas tree has four ingredients and takes minutes to assemble.

 

Green salsa and goat cheese Credit Juliana Goodwin (2)

First, I cut a block of cold cream cheese on a diagonal so it makes two right angle triangles. Then flip one of the triangles over to put the two together to make a tree shape. Generously cover the block of cream cheese with pesto sauce. Add a piece of a pretzel rod to make the base of the tree (just break off a piece). And thinly slice a desired amount of sundried tomatoes to make garland and string those across the tree. This step is optional; you can simply serve the pesto tree.  I use this recipe for different holidays –  a spider web at Halloween or a football field for the super bowl. No matter when I serve it, people love both the flavor and presentation. My favorite store bought pesto sauce Giovanni Rana because of its flavor and vibrant green color. It’s refrigerated so it’s fresher than a jarred variety. Serve this dip with French bread and crackers.

World Table Roasted Salsa Verde is one of the best commercially made green salsas I’ve ever tried.

Green salsa and goat cheese Credit Juliana Goodwin (1)

 

So many green salsas are too salty, too limey or too thin. This one is perfect. It’s slightly spicy so I mix it with a block of chevre and serve it as a dip (about ½ cup to 2/3 cup of green salsa). An alternative if you don’t like goat cheese is to pour the salsa over a block of cream cheese. I’ve served it both ways and it has been popular. It’s available at Walmart stores.

You may not think of pomegranate and guacamole as going together, but they pair beautifully. A friend of mine made a pomegranate guacamole a few years ago and I fell in love with.

Guacamole Pomegranate tree credit Juliana Goodwin

 

This is simply store-bought guacamole decorated with pomegranate seeds (also known as arils). It’s pretty and delicious.  I used an open Christmas cookie cutter to make the shape of the tree and filled it with pomegranate seeds. You could use any shapes. You can buy a pomegranate or simply purchase the POM arils which is the easiest way to go. If you decide to buy a pomegranate, leftover pomegranate arils are excellent in sparkling wine or moscato. You can also hallow out the shell of the pomegranate and serve a dip in it. In terms of guacamole, I recommend Holy Guacamole or the Aldi’s variety.

Pomegranate Guacamole Credit Juliana Goodwin

With these dips, you can throw together a party in no time. Happy holidays.

Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse

If you only try one new pumpkin recipe this fall, let it be my Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse.

Don’t let the word “mousse” intimidate you because this is as easy as it gets: it takes five minutes and has five ingredients. You simply whisk together sweetened condensed milk, canned pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, and whipped topping. Then serve it with gingersnap cookies for dipping (although the velvety mousse is delicious on its own).

I’ve created a variety of pumpkin mousse recipes over the years, but this is my best.

I gave my 3-year-old – who is hesitant to try new things – a bite and asked if she wanted another bite. She said: “I want the whole thing,” and promptly took it from my hands. She licked the bowl clean.

My husband said he could bathe in this; my mom said it was better than pumpkin pie. The rave reviews have ensued every time I make it (and I am sure you’ll get the same response).

This recipe will be a winner this holiday season. It’s even better after a few hours of refrigeration, but can be served immediately, too.

This mousse would be great at your Halloween party. Simply carve out a small pie pumpkin and fill it with mousse and serve it with Gingersnap cookies.

Five-Minute Pumpkin Mousse

Makes 20 (2-ounce) servings

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 (8-ounce) tub of whipped topping, defrosted

Mini Gingersnap cookies to garnish

Beat or stir together sweetened condensed milk, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice and whipped topping, until combined.

Pour mixture into 2-ounce glasses and top with a gingersnap cookie. Serve immediately.

Other serving options: If you have a smaller crowd and want to serve larger portions, you can serve pumpkin mousse in wine glasses with or without a cookie. You can also crumble cookies and put them on top.

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Preserving and using your herbs – and a great pesto recipe

The end of summer means the end of an herb garden is near.

Depending on the weather, you may have several weeks to harvest fresh herbs, but I like to start cutting my plants back now and preserving as many as possible for winter.

If you have a sunny spot in the house, you can bring in oregano, rosemary, and lavender which will usually survive for several months inside. I’ve had mixed luck with basil but it’s worth a try.

Some herbs like rosemary and thyme are easy to dry, while others like cilantro and basil, do not dry well. This week, I have a lot of suggestions on which herbs to dry, freeze or use now (and a great pesto recipe to use up that basil).

First, let’s talk about basil, which is the most commonly grown herb. There’s nothing like fresh basil, but that flavor is hard to capture.  The best way to preserve basil is to make pesto and freeze it.

I recommend buying mini plastic storage containers to freeze basil in smaller portions (about ½ to 1 cup at a time). My husband is a teacher and one of his co-workers, Janice Queen, makes amazing pesto. I asked her to share her recipe. Something I really like about this recipe is it calls for almonds, as well as pine nuts (pine nuts are very expensive, so this is a more economical recipe).  The recipe also calls for a good dose of parsley, which is nice if you’re growing that, too.

Pesto is versatile: use it as a salad dressing, toss it with pasta and fresh tomatoes, or pour it over a block of cream cheese for a quick dip (serve with crackers and French bread).

Herb butters are another wonderful way to use up herbs, particularly rosemary and basil.  All you have to do is soften 1 stick of unsalted butter, stir in 2 tablespoons of chopped basil or 1 tablespoon chopped rosemary. Then spread it on a slice of French bread.  It’s marvelous and an easy and inexpensive addition to a party. You can also add 1 tablespoon finely minced sundried tomatoes to the butter.

If I am serving it at a party, I serve it at room temperature, but if you want herb butter for your family, mold the butter back into a log, place it in plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for several days (rosemary butter will last longer than basil).

If you have leftover herb butter, use it in pasta, on vegetables, or spread a pat on a steak.

Another idea to use either fresh or dried herbs is to sprinkle herbs (thyme, oregano, rosemary or a combination are my favorites) on a mix of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil for a quick bread dip. You can use that recipe to marinate vegetables that you’re going to grill, too. Be sure to add salt to both dishes though.

Ok, now we’ve used fresh herbs, let’s talk about drying herbs.

Before you dry any herb, you want to rinse it gently and pat it dry with a paper towel. Only dry herbs that are in perfect condition, and discard any that are wilted or changing colors.

Certain herbs, like thyme and rosemary, dry beautifully. To dry these herbs all you have to do is cut off the stems, lay them on a piece of parchment paper on a pan and let it rest for about 7 days. After that, pull the leaves off and place in a spice jar away from sunlight or heat.

dried rosemary

I dry my rosemary and buy pretty glass jars and give it away at Christmas. Also, you can use dried rosemary to make an herb butter which is excellent on rolls or whipped into mashed potatoes and makes a good hostess gift.

Mint and oregano have a slightly higher moisture content and are better dried after you pick the leaves off the plant. Don’t let the leaves touch each other as this may increase the chance of the herbs molding before they have a chance to dry. Place the leaves on a paper towel on a baking sheet and cover with another paper towel.  Place them in an oven for 24-48 hours (turn on the light in the oven, not the heat). Leaves are ready when they crumble in your hand.

My favorite thing to do with cilantro is let it go to seed and then collect those seeds which are coriander seeds (and those are expensive in the store). Coriander seeds have great flavor. Another option though is to chop cilantro, place nearly 1 tablespoon in an ice cube tray and fill it with water. Freeze. This retains some of the original cilantro flavor, but will still not be the same.

Hopefully this will help you enjoy the last weeks of your herb garden and stretch that flavor into winter.

Easy Pesto

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, peeled

1/2 cup pine nuts, walnuts, almonds or a combination (I usually use almonds)

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

3 cups fresh basil, no stems

3/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

Salt to taste

In a food processor, combine the oil, garlic, almonds and Parmesan cheese. Then, feed in the herbs and blend until combined.   It is so easy and freezes very well.

Recipe was originally adapted from Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook.